She Turned Her Diabetes Diagnosis Into Her Daily Grind

She Turned Her Diabetes Diagnosis

Into Her Daily Grind

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“If someone asked me when I was younger and in college, “What are you going to do?” And that I would say, “Oh, I’m going to start this diabetes fashion company some day,” I would be like what are you talking about? Nothing on this track was ever in the life plan.”

Type 1 Diabetes is not caused by candy or carbohydrates. It is a serious disease that is caused by a person’s own body attacking the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. Nobody thinks about how they would react to getting diagnosed with an autoimmune disease until it happens to them.

Kyrra Richards, founder of Myabetic sat down with SWAAY to have a diabetic-to-diabetic discussion [I have had Type 1 Diabetes since college] about her diagnosis and starting her incredible line of functional accessories. Bonding over our ‘late’ diagnoses with a juvenile disease, her being 24 at the time of diagnosis and me being 19, Richards and I hit it off right off the bat. During our chat she talked about every aspect of juggling type 1, running a company, being a mom, and how she never thought she would own a business like this in her life.

Frost pink Brandy backpack

At 24 years old, Richards was working as a professional dancer and model when she started feeling the telltale signs of her disease. “I was actually performing for the troops in Afghanistan on a dance tour flying from base to base and performing. And that’s when I started feeling a little bit off. Was super thirsty all the time and obviously had to go to the bathroom a lot,” the dancer explains.

Richards went back to the United States and could not shake the symptoms. Thinking she ‘broke her bladder’ in Afghanistan she promptly went to see a doctor. When they checked her blood glucose, it was around 500 MG/dl, which is very high. The average non-diabetic person should range between 70-130 MG/dl. I myself was at 300 MG/dl when I was diagnosed.

Lavender James wallet
Kyrra Richards.

“I had a really hard time in the beginning,” she says. “I still do. My doctor (at the time) wasn’t exactly super understanding and really comforting, unfortunately. She was a good doctor as far as the medical side, the insulin levels and what you’re supposed to do.” Says the diabetic fashion guru. “But not necessarily the emotional and psychological part of it, which is way harder for me to deal with. I could deal with all the shots and trying to figure those things out. Like, “Fine.” But that wasn’t the problem.”

Richards told me that feeling like a patient was one of the worst parts of her diagnosis. This feeling sparked a desire in her to come up with a solution to the shame she felt carrying around her medical supplies and to find a way to make at least that one part of the disease more bearable.

“That emotional feeling of being isolated, not really knowing anyone, who to talk to and feeling a little bit ashamed to bring it up. I didn’t really want to show my testing kit to anybody, they come in those ugly little black cases. I was trying to hide it. I’m in Los Angeles doing this awesome career and I have cute bags and then I have this ugly little case, you know? So it just represented everything that I hated about diabetes. I was like, I feel like I have this awesome fabulous life and I’m pursuing my goals and big dreams and then there’s this ugly side of me and that’s just kind of how I felt about diabetes.” -Kyrra Richards

And thus, Myabetic was born. Richards sat down with the goal to find a silver lining and make parts of the disease, in her words, more beautiful. She got to the drawing board and started making bag designs that are not only stylish but also practical and able to hold the medical supplies type 1 diabetics have to carry with them everywhere they go.

When asked about problems she has faced as a female CEO, she credits her auditioning background to what has helped her in the business world and in turn the business world has helped her as a patient. Appeasing her doctors has been a struggle for Richards but she knew she had to express what was on her mind in the boardroom and in the doctor’s office. The bag designer says that she is naturally a ‘people pleaser’ so learning to say no was a challenge for her.

“Sticking up for myself is something that I’ve learned as I’ve gone along with the business. But, it’s played into other aspects of my life as well. With my health and with my business.”

As for starting a fashion company that incorporates a medical aspect, Richards found that part more challenging. Her motto during that process was ‘fake it till you make it’. There was no blueprint or company to model hers off of so she figured it all out as she went. “I don’t know how to completely draw the perfect plans for a wallet or a purse, but okay let me contact some other people that may have been in this space. And then figure this out.” The Myabetic founder says. “Or, I’ll do the best I can and then research different manufacturers, going door to door. There are just so many things to learn that I don’t feel like there was ever a point that I was educated in this. It’s just an adventure in every little step.”

The entrepreneur recently had a baby girl. Finding a balance between work and family is something she says she has to work for but it’s more than worth it. “The biggest struggle, at least this year, is finding the balance.” She says. “Spending quality time with my daughter and wanting to be there for her, but also wanting to create something for her and wanting her to grow up seeing her mom pursue something that she really believes in.”

Blue Banting wallet

Being sold in over 40 countries, Richards’ company has everything from tee shirts and insulin pump cases to backpacks and purses. Myabetic makes it easy for every diabetic to stay stylish while managing their disease. The best seller is the essential Banting Wallet for men and women but Richards’ personal favorite item that they sell is the Love Bug case for little kids.

“I’ve had parents reach out saying my daughter tests more and shows off her Love Bug on the playground. And because of it, has started actually wanting to check her blood sugar herself. That’s something that makes me so happy. So that’s my favorite product.”

A word of advice Richards has for women who aspire to start their own companies is, “From the same perspective that I have on my diabetes, starting a business is a huge roller coaster of ups and downs. And it’s okay if you’re having those bad days. You’re going to have some great wins and feel like you’re on top of the world at some point and have things under control. Then the next day you feel like everything is spiraling, and that is part of the deal, but it’s okay. There’s going to be those sunny days and cloudy days. But, I think the bad times make the good times feel so much better.”

Amanda Jaguden

Amanda is a writer living in New York City. She loves reading, coffee, traveling and anything that empowers women.

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